As the BYU Cougars break down film of USC’s quarterbacks this week, Kalani Sitake and his staff have been staring back at a familiar face.
Before former Corner Canyon star quarterback Jaxson Dart committed to play at USC, he was being courted by the Cougars. Dart has appeared in four games this season for the Trojans, and most recently put together a 27-of-47 performance with an interception, a touchdown and 325 yards in a loss to UCLA — his first-ever collegiate start.
It’s possible Dart starts again for a USC team that will be honoring its seniors on the second to last game of the season. Against the Bruins, he played in place of injured junior QB Kedon Slovis. As of Sunday, it was unclear if Slovis would return to practice this week.
“Knowing the kid and being around him and talking to him in the recruiting process, you know he’ll be ready for this,” Sitake said of Dart. “He’s a big-time player.”
Sitake complimented Dart on his football IQ and presence on the field and said he was looking forward to seeing the former Corner Canyon quarterback.
“He can hurt you with his arm and he can run as well,” Sitake said. “So put that all together and surround him with a physical, athletic [offensive] line and capable receivers and ball carriers, they have every bit of our attention.”
Sitake added that he generally roots for Dart to succeed, but obviously will not do that Saturday when the Cougars are trying to beat his team.
Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall knows Dart personally, he said, and has even caught some of his USC games. He added that the two QBs trained together in California this year with former Cougars player John Beck.
“I wish him the best this week,” Hall said of Dart.
Cougars excited about another potential 10-win season
Talk about a potential 10-win season doesn’t seem to put Sitake into a reflective mood.
The No. 13 Cougars are 9-2 heading into their final game of the season — a road matchup against USC on Saturday. If they win, it would mark the second consecutive year they finished the regular season with 10 wins. The last time BYU won 10 games before 2020 was 2011.
USC (4-6) has some talent, but has had an up and down 2021 season. When asked what it would mean to him and the program to get another 10-win season under his belt, Sitake pulled focus away from the potential outcome.
“The goal is this Saturday,” Sitake said. “I’m not really worried about the record or anything like that. Just trying to get our team ready to perform at our best and we’ll see what happens at the end. But I like our chances if we can do that.”
Oftentimes, coaches don’t like to publicly create any extra hype or pressure surrounding a game or a season. They know what certain games or streaks or performances mean, but generally don’t talk about them until after they’ve happened.
That doesn’t preclude players from expressing their thoughts about the significance of certain milestones, though. For instance, winning 10 games would mean a great deal to Cougars defensive back Kaleb Hayes.
“It’s going to feel amazing,” Hayes said of potentially getting to double-digit wins. “In my college career, I’ve never been 10-2. So that’s very important to me and my career. And I know for these boys, it’s very important for us to get this win.”
Defensive back Malik Moore agreed with his teammate.
“A 10-2 season? Shoot, that would be crazy,” Moore said. “Get us a good little bowl game. Hopefully New Year’s Six. We’re going to see.”